John Oliver: "Hard, Necessary Work" Needs to Be Done to Change "Unacceptable" Present

The 'Last Week Tonight' host took jabs at police unions, Joe Biden and even HBO Max on Sunday's show.
Screenshot/Courtesy of HBO

John Oliver took jabs at police unions, Joe Biden and even HBO Max in making his case that there is "hard, necessary work to be done in changing the unacceptable conditions of our present."

The host of HBO's Last Week Tonight showed a clip of New York police union head Michael O'Meara speaking at a recent press conference amid nationwide protests over police brutality and systemic racism following the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minnesota police. Said O'Meara: "Stop treating us like animals and thugs, and start treating us with some respect. ... We've been left out of the conversation. It's disgusting."

Replied Oliver: "Yeah, you have been left out of the conversation, but I'll tell you why. It's because you've been fucking terrible at conversing. If a high school debate team argued their rebuttals by tear-gassing the other team, they probably wouldn't be invited back to regionals."

Oliver then went on to note that "some have taken dismantling symbols of white supremacy into their own hands." He showed clips of statues of Christopher Columbus, King Leopold II in Belgium, a slave trader in England and others being defaced, beheaded, destroyed and thrown into bodies of water.

This was followed by a clip of Virginia State Sen. Amanda Chase criticizing an announcement that officials in her state would be removing a statue to Robert E. Lee. "It's all about shoving this down people's throats and erasing the history of the white people, and I think that's wrong," she said.

Said Oliver: "Setting aside her almost clinical ability to miss the point, you can't erase the history of white people. It's like the skid marks on the ass of your favorite shorts: No matter how hard you try, that shit's never coming out."

He then moved on to recent moves like NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag and HBO Max's announcement that it would be temporarily pulling Civil War epic Gone With the Wind from the streaming service. In response, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized HBO Max's decision in a press conference on behalf of President Trump: "Where do you draw the line?" she asked.

"The answer to, where do you draw the line, is literally always 'somewhere,'" Oliver said in response. "You draw it somewhere. Also, HBO is not permanently pulling the movie, it's going back up with additional context."

He continued by taking a jab at the streaming service: "Who gives a shit if something's not on HBO Max? In fact, there may be no better way to obliterate all evidence of something's existence than to put it on HBO Max, the only ash heap of history that costs $15 a month."

HBO Max, which launched May 27, said Gone With the Wind will eventually return to the service with a "discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions" of Black people and slavery.

Meanwhile, Oliver went on to criticize Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as one of several "stubborn reminders of the institutional inertia that is going to make real change so difficult, like Joe Biden sticking by his plan to invest and additional $300 million into community policing efforts, which is an example of whatever the precise opposite of reading the room is."

Oliver later showed a clip of a news report showing that the Louisville, Kentucky, police released an incident report from the night that police shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her home. The report was "almost entirely blank" and said she "had no injuries even though police shot her at least eight times," the TV reporter noted in the clip Oliver showed.

"Holy shit, that is appalling," Oliver said. "And when it comes to erasing history, this seems a fuck of a lot worse than leaving a bunch of statues toppled, cracked and beheaded — or, as it would probably be described on a Louisville police report, 'no injuries.'"

He continued: "So yes, it's important that we deal honestly with the uncomfortable aspects of our past, but there's also hard, necessary work to be done in changing the unacceptable conditions of our present. And the only hope for that is if — to say something that has never once been said about the offerings on HBO Max — people don't take their fucking eyes off this."